four-one-act plays directed by college students this week took my paranoia into the next generation. these twenty-year olds imagined a murder next door, the plight of a mother whose son killed in afghanistan, a girl who derails a professor on a rainy, dark road, and scares the hell out of him, even while turning him on. the fourth play an echo of camus' the stranger. a fellow confesses killing an arab (his sister dead in the pentagon): i knew the face of the enemy.
terror, of course, no stranger to us. gunshots come from the next apartment, action movies with high-budgets sell in foreign countries, so we've a steady diet of them at home. i confess i hate television. the stories, the commercials, constantly hype me up, deliver a crude and powerful shot of adrenalin, deadening my ability to empathize. billboards, neon signs, nothing lets me rest. when the angels of aesthetics came for me, i said, i go willingly.
i'm no different than schopenhauer, who ultimately regretted giving up human love for the ineffable and perfect products of the imagination. yes, i did attempt to mix romantic love with adventures in foreign parts. each a fairy-tale of its own which did not, like the real thing, end with a return to everyday life, simply the next quest. odd, this journey put me in rather degraded situations. say the night i spent in a winnipeg salvation army hotel, a loud fellow in the hall banging on another door for half the night, "let me in, talk to me." or the night riding a rattle-trap bus from bali to jogjakarta, stalled in the jungle god-only-knows where, me the only passenger.
yes, i've definitely seen 'lonely men in rented rooms' while passing families in new zealand parks and thailand restaurants. even as i walk through the university campus these days, i watch the girls living into their cellphones and think, they too think someone will break into their conversation, the shock of the present would cause a cry. i thought long ago, we won't be totally where we are, for then we can totally die. unfortunately, an eternity of form, color, and sound keeps my feet off the ground. and a poem like this from Osip Mandelstam makes me swoon:
When Psyche - life - descends among the shades,
Pursuing Persephone through half-transparent leaves,
The blind swallow hurls itself at her feet
With Stygian affection and a green twig.
Phantoms quickly throng about their new companion,
They meet the fugitive with grievings,
In her face they wring weak hands,
Perplexed by bashful hope.
One holds out a mirror, another a phial of perfumes -
The soul likes trinkets - is after all feminine.
And dry complainings, like fine rain,
Sprinkle the leafless forest with transparent voices.
And uncertain what to do in this tender hubbub,
The soul doesn't recognize the transparent trees.
Psyche breathes on the mirror, slow to hand over
The lozenge of copper to the master of the ferry.
(trans. by james greene)